THE TRANSACTION TAX
Joe Devney: “Here is a story at the intersection of finance and politics: ‘Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman Peter DeFazio reintroduced a bill that would impose a speculation and derivatives tax that could bring in needed government revenues.’ Do you think it’s a good idea?”
The big revenue source we should grab is via a carbon tax, as argued Monday. But, yes, if it’s small, I think a financial transaction tax is a an excellent idea. First off, we need the revenue. An extra $5 on a $15,000 trade? I’ll live. Second, it would discourage some of the craziest high-frequency trading. Third, Vanguard founder John Bogle favors it (as do 1,000 economists) and no one’s been a more level-headed advocate for the retail investor than he.
AND SPEAKING OF TAXES . . .
Thanks to ProPublica and NPR for this eye opener:
Imagine filing your income taxes in five minutes — and for free. You’d open up a pre-filled return, see what the government thinks you owe, make any needed changes and be done. The miserable annual IRS shuffle, gone.
It’s already a reality in Denmark, Sweden and Spain. The government-prepared return would estimate your taxes using information your employer and bank already send it. Advocates say tens of millions of taxpayers could use such a system each year, saving them a collective $2 billion and 225 million hours in prep costs and time, according to one estimate.
The idea, known as “return-free filing,” would be a voluntary alternative to hiring a tax preparer or using commercial tax software. The concept has been around for decades and has been endorsed by both President Ronald Reagan and a campaigning PresidentObama.
. . .So why hasn’t it become a reality?Well, for one thing, it doesn’t help that it’s been opposed for years by the company behind the most popular consumer tax software — Intuit, maker of TurboTax. Conservative tax activist Grover Norquist and an influential computer industry group also have fought return-free filing.
Intuit has spent about $11.5 million on federal lobbying in the past five years — more than Apple or Amazon. Although the lobbying spans a range of issues, Intuit’s disclosures pointedly note that the company “opposes IRS government tax preparation.” . . .
Women can vote! Ho-hum. Clarence Thomas’s wife is white! Ho-hum. The President is black! I wouldn’t go so far as to ho-hum that amazing national milestone — but African-American mayors? A dime a dozen. And so on. With time, controversial things become ho-hum. Remember Ellen on the cover of Time? “Yep, I’ m gay.” BIG controversy! Advertiser boycotts! All that — just 16 years ago. Remember Anderson Cooper coming out a few months ago? Good for him, for sure, but . . . yawn.
Sam Caldwell: “I think what I’m going to say is old hat for you but it made an impression on me. My son-in-law has a group of close friends who are scattered around the country but who make an effort to get together as often as they can. They’re into back country skiing and some in the group are pretty macho. One of the guys recently came out. It was a non event. He is a great guy who they all like. He’s very busy on Wall St. and sometimes says he can’t make it to their get-togethers. When this happens they really put the heat on him to join and he usually ends up coming. One of their traditions is that when one’s wife is pregnant they all get together for a ‘men’s shower.’ This winter they had their get together in Tahoe and he joined them. He grew up in Florida and doesn’t ski but when they skinned up the mountain he was right with them on snow shoes. When they hit the strip clubs in Reno, he was right with them. To me this is the new normal. This is the way it should be. In future being gay in our culture is going to be about as notable as being left handed.”
Maybe this specific subset of hu-hum-ization should be called ho-homo-zation. Whatever we call it, it is, I think — like giving women the right to vote and Justice Thomas the right to marry — a good thing.